Hello! Welcome back to my second mindfulness post.
Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues people experience. They can significantly impact the lives of people who have them.
I suffer from depression and have since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, mental illness is largely stigmatized. So I thought I’d share some of my own experience with depression. People will often tell me they had no idea I suffer from depression because I hide it so well. Perhaps this is part of your experience too.
What my depression looks like
I get into such low moods all I want to do is sit on my couch and zone out. I won’t clean, I’ll barely do laundry and dishes. Now I do what I have to for my son, but when it comes to my own stuff, it’s largely forgotten. I will binge on crappy foods and other times I’ll barely eat anything. Sleeping will become impossible even though I’m exhausted, or I will literally sleep all day. I become very negative and believe everything people say is a slight against me. Sometimes I will get angry with my loved ones for no reason and lash out.
I won’t always know it’s happening, it can be a slow, creeping process. The depression will slowly choke out the outside world until I’m left with only dark thoughts. Thoughts will circle continuously telling me how ugly I am, how fat I’ve gotten, how I will never be happy, that people don’t actually want to be my friend, they are just pretending. Why do I bother? No one will want me. I’m too abrasive, I’m not happy enough, I don’t understand jokes.
While my depression and negativity is happening, I’ll go through the motions. I put on my eyeliner, smile and laugh, joke with my coworkers, and maybe have good conversations with my friends and family. I’m exhausted from pretending all day and can’t keep it up at home. I will sit on my couch for hours with the TV on, sometimes I’ll watch it, but mainly it’s for background to try to block out my thoughts. To switch off, to shut down. But when I manage to shut down, the numbness can be worse. Can you be human if you are numb? There is a major difference these days to my depression though. Before I was pregnant, I hardly cried. Now crying is all too familiar.
My light of my life
The light I focus on in the fog is my son. My happy little man is my reason for being. His whole face lights up when he sees me. That is the most magnificent gift. He doesn’t know what depression is. My son doesn’t know Mommy struggles with depression. Ezra needs his mommy to be there and be engaged with him. I have been working very hard to recover from depression for my son.
Mindfulness is a very good tool to use that can actually help with depression and anxiety. It can help you boost your mood, stop dwelling in the past or future, and encourage you to relax and experience this moment. If you want to read a little bit more on mindfulness, see my other post here
I love mindfulness and have found it to be extremely helpful and useful. Now, I’m not perfect, I definitely don’t practice mindfulness every day. But I try to practice several times a week. Currently, I do a mindfulness exercise as part of my bedtime routine. This is the easiest part of my day to set aside for mindfulness because it’s a time I reserve for me. You can do mindfulness pretty much by doing anything and pretty much anywhere.
If you’re super busy like me, perhaps an easier time for mindfulness is when you’re walking. Yes, walking. You’re going to be walking at some point during your day, right? So why not make it mindfulness walking!
Ready for another mindfulness exercise? Good! First though, some reminders!
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the moment without judgment and emotional attachment. Losing focus is normal and perfectly OK! When your mind wonders to thoughts, worries, or anything else, gently bring your attention back to the exercise.
Mindful Walking Exercise
Start by walking at your typical pace without trying to change it. Notice how you are walking.
Notice the sensation of when your feet leave the ground. What does that feel like? Do you shift your weight? Do you lift at the foot? Or the knee or hip?
After several steps, shift your attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. How does your weight shift when your foot lands? Do your toes or heel hit first? Notice your feet making contact with the ground for a few steps.
Slowly make your way up your body. How are your knees bending while walking? Are they moving easily or are they stiff? Allow yourself to simply notice your knees for a few paces.
Then, focus on your hips. What direction are they moving? Side to side or more straight? Can you feel your upper legs and hips connect at the joint? How does that feel? What is your experience with that sensation?
Move your attention then to your stomach. Are your stomach muscles moving? Do you hold your belly in? Can you feel your breath in your stomach? Just feel and notice your stomach muscles as you walk for several steps.
Switch your focus then to your arms and shoulders. Are your arms moving or crossed? Are your shoulders lose or hunched towards your ears? If your shoulders are upwards, make the point to lower your shoulders and uncross your arms, letting that tension release.
Then focus on your face and head. Where are you looking? Is your head downward looking at the ground? Upwards looking side to side? Do you move your head when you see something or hear something? Take the time to simply notice your head.
If you are still walking, start again, but speed up or slow down your pace. Are you less tense? More tense? Is walking easier or more difficult? How does your breath change when you speed up or slow down? Notice how the change in your pace changes your experience.
Practice makes perfect!
Practice mindfulness walking for a week and see how it impacts your life. Ask yourself if you notice you’re less stressed? Focusing less on past or future thinking?
Let me know what your experience is! I’d love to hear from you. If you like this exercise and want more, please follow my blog and sign up for my email list for exclusive Positively Kati Content!